DUBAI // Guus Hiddink has left the door open for a possible return to Chelsea after the Anzhi Makhachkala manager denied he is certain to retire at the end of this season.
The Dutchman enjoyed a hugely successful three months in 2009 with the English Premier League club, when he was installed as caretaker coach following the dismissal of Luiz Felipe Scolari and promptly guided the side to the FA Cup.
Chelsea are currently in the market for a new manager with Rafael Benitez, the current interim coach, confirming earlier this week he will vacate his position once the 2012/13 campaign has concluded.
Hiddink is sure to once again figure high on the list of potential candidates, especially because of his previous relationship with Roman Abramovich, the Chelsea owner.
Abramovich has a reputation as one of club football's most ruthless men – the Russian has employed nine different managers since purchasing the club in 2003 - yet Hiddink remains the one manager to have departed Stamford Bridge of his own volition.
"They have gone through a lot of changes. I'm the only man who wasn't sacked," said Hiddink today at Dubai Sports City, where his Anzhi side are training ahead of the resumption of the Russian league.
"I enjoyed my time there very much. I was there almost half a year and in 27 or 30 games we lost only to Tottenham Hotspur and in the rest achieved good results. On top of that, I really enjoyed working with the group of players."
Hiddink had been expected this summer to call time on a managerial career that has spanned 30 years and seven countries, however the vastly experienced coach insists he could yet be persuaded to continue.
"I said to Dutch television that I might stop at the end of the season, but we've other options to go on with [Anzhi]," he said. "And regarding other clubs, I'm 66 now and will be 67 in autumn. As long as I feel energetic, and I'm not becoming an old, bitter, sour man then I can go on. But I cannot predict where I am next season."
Hiddink was careful not to say too much on the current malaise at Chelsea. Benitez has endured a torrid time from the club's supporters since replacing Roberto Di Matteo on a temporary basis, and used a post-match press conference on Wednesday night to convey his frustrations.
Hiddink, though, would not be drawn on the issue, saying: "It's difficult for me from this distance to judge. It's not up to me, it's up to the club as to how they will get back in a good situation.
"I don't know [if Benitez has been treated badly by the fans]. They have a history and the fans react how they want."
Hiddink also reminded the Chelsea board about the importance of Frank Lampard, the midfielder and vice-captain whose contract expires at the end of the season.
Lampard, one of the club's most decorated players, is believed to want to remain in west London, although his employers are reportedly reluctant to offer him an extension.
"That's up to the club. But most clubs have someone who protects the culture of the club and at Chelsea Frank is one of those guys," Hiddink said. "And although Frank is 34, he's still fit, still treats himself well.
"When I asked him once in training to stay off the pitch today and not play tomorrow because he was injured, he said 'no, boss, please, please, please'.
"So he's eager and looks after himself very well. And those guys you must be very careful with [how you treat them]."
Follow us @SprtNationalUAE